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The role of community-based natural resource management in climate change adaptation in Ethiopia

Describes the methodology developed to assess what role selected community-based/participatory natural resource management initiatives have in climate change adaptation.
David Zetland


This paper describes the methodology developed by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to assess what role selected community-based/ participatory natural resource management (CB/PNRM) initiatives undertaken by Save the Children with pastoral communities in the lowland Borana and Guji zones in Ethiopia have in contributing to climate change adaptation. It also describes the results and recommendations generated from IIED researchers applying this bespoke methodology at the study sites.

These Save the Children CB/PNRM initiatives are part of Phase II of the Pastoral Livelihoods Initiative and the sites visited experienced droughts in 2010/11. Similar sites in Horbtor Kebele, Yabello District, that also suffered from drought and had the same history of development and humanitarian interventions, but had no Save the Children interventions, were also visited. Quantitative and qualitative measurements were taken at both sites to enable a comparative assessment of adaptation and related outcomes thus strengthening scientific evidence regarding the role that these upgraded Save the Children CB/PNRM initiatives might play in supporting adaptation.

Key recommendations

Results show that much has been done at the Save the Children sites towards moving from conventional approaches to development (and adaptation to climate variability including disaster risk reduction) to ‘transformative development’ approaches that empower local people and support bottom-up, participatory, flexible decision-making and planning processes within a strong institutional context. Much has also been done towards moving from standard development approaches towards those that support adaptation to climate variability including disaster risk reduction (ACV/DRR).

The results are fully described and discussed in depth in the paper (download available in the right-hand column). The major outocmes of the analysis can be summarized as follows:

  • This study (download available in right-hand column) shows the value of CB/PNRM as an adaptation strategy in the context of the Ethiopian dryland pastoralist communities.
  • Whilst climate change was not a specific focus of the Save the Children CB/ PNRM intervention design, many of the activities implemented made important contributions to building local adaptive capacity.
  • Comparisons with the non-Save the Children site, where most activities were closer to conventional development than ‘transformative development’ or ‘transformative ACV/DRR,’ reinforced these observations.
  • This suggests that the potential role that development actors, such as Save the Children, can play in the context of building adaptive capacity merits further attention amongst governments and policymakers.
  • Likewise the role that sustainable natural resource management can play as an adaptation strategy, particularly for poor and vulnerable groups such as the Borana pastoralists, merits further attention when compared to alternative infrastructure or technological adaptation solutions.
  • Chishakwe et al. (2012) and Munroe et al. (2011) argue for the need for newer fields of study such as community-based adaptation to learn from older disciplines such as CB/ PNRM, and this study reinforces this recommendation.

Methods and Tools

The framework used to assess adaptation benefits at the research sites is based on a monitoring and evaluation for community-based adaptation (M&E for CBA) framework developed by the Action Research on Community Adaptation in Bangladesh (ARCAB) action research programme. ARCAB’s goal is ‘transformed resilience’, which means achieving resilience at scale, resulting in the successful longer term adaptation of the climate vulnerable poor to climate change impacts through sustainable adaptation strategies. The framework focuses on three domains: knowledge, capacity and practice.

An extensive description of the framework and full discussion of the results is given in the paper (download available in right-hand column).

Study Sites

Figure 1 (from p.11 of the paper): Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia

Save the Children project sites visited for this study were located in the lowland Borana (sometimes written Borena) and Guji Zones, Oromia (sometimes written Oromiya) Regional State in Ethiopia with a focus on the three neighbouring woredas (districts) of Liben, Gorodola and Arero. Similar sites in Horbtor, Yabello (sometimes called Labelo) District, with no Save the Children interventions, were also visited for comparative purposes. Figure 2 shows the location of these woredas in the Borana Zone).

Figure 2 (from p.12 of the paper): Oromia Regional State showing the Borana Region in the south and the study sites in this region

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